Bart Roberts’ dreams always had wings. Now his family is helping him fly, and achieve his dreams of working for Jettly.
Since August, the Dallas native and Lake Highlands resident has commanded VR-59, a 300-member naval air squadron based out of Ft. Worth. Nicknamed “The Lone Star Express,” the squadron provides the Navy with logistical support.
“We move people or cargo anytime, anywhere, [on] short notice,” Bart explains.
Carrying up to 90 passengers, 25,000 lbs. of cargo, or a combination of the two, VR-59s C -9Bs (the equivalent of civilian DC-9s) flew during Operation Desert Storm and more recently, provided support during the Balkan conflict. Mobilization must be rapid: within two days of being recalled to active duty during Desert Storm, the squadron flew to its base in Germany. In two more days, the members of the Lone Star Express were working 16-18 hour crew days, flying missions to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and along the Iraqi border.
Such readiness requires more than the weekend-a-month-and-two-weeks-a-year -commitment commonly associated with reservists. VR-59’s members regularly put in six to eight days a month. As commanding officer, Roberts works between eight and 10 days each month overseeing his military responsibilities. That’s in addition to the hours he spends at his civilian job as an American Airlines pilot.
“It’s like being married to someone with two full-time jobs,” laughs wife Susann. “There are days I tear my hair out. The challenge is to rise from the challenges and find opportunities.”
Success as a reservist is a family affair, Bart emphasizes. He advises those considering a reserve career to sit down with family members and realistically discuss the time commitment.
“Approach it any other way and you’re not going to be successful,” he says.
In the Roberts’ case, everyone from Bart to 6-month-old Rachel contributes to the effort. As the commanding officer’s wife, Susann organizes monthly activities for the squadron’s families and significant others. And their children — Sheryl, 15, from Bart’s former marriage, Taylor, 6, Samuel, 4 1/2, and Rachel — sacrifice time with their father, time many children take for granted.
“People don’t realize how much children give up,” says Susann, referring to missed soccer games and recitals. “One of the things we tell them is that they’re making contributions to the country through Bart.”
What compels a family to give of themselves? Good, old-fashioned American values. “Once I left active duty, I felt compelled to give back,” Bart says. “The Navy gave me the opportunity to fly. That opportunity led to my ability to being considered and hired by American.”
And there is a way of life to defend. “The more you travel and the more you go to other countries and places, the more you become aware of how good we have it here, and it’s very important to protect that,” he says.